Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Quick Fix: Updates!

Just a quick post this week with some updates on life and the blog. First of all, I got a new computer finally! For the last couple years, I've been operating off of a relatively cheap laptop which I always considered a stop-gap to a longer term solution. It was adequate for school, but when I wanted to do video editing it could barely handle it - rendering would take hours, video clips couldn't be more than 720p at 30FPS, etc. Plus it couldn't handle PC gaming beyond the least-intensive titles (thank God for Civilization IV). Anyway, the new computer is doing quite well for me, with my only real complaints being that I think I need a better network card and that Windows 8 is idiotic. Well, I'm also having some troubles with DayZ, but I chalk that up to my Internet connection and the game's buggy alpha status rather than the computer itself (by the way, get DayZ, it's addictive).

Related to the new computer is some paintballing news. My team, The Stormrunners, is gearing up for the 2014 season, our fourth as an organized unit. In anticipation for this, I have put together a video of the highlights from the 2013 season, it should be online soon so keep an eye on my Youtube page for it!

Finally, it's been almost a month since the last retrospectives series ended, so it's getting pretty close to the time for the next one to start. I've been mulling over three possible franchises for this latest series, but I think I've finally narrowed it down to a single candidate. I was considering doing something quite different, but I'll save that for sometime in the future for now... Anyway, I'm going to set a firm start point of February 11th for this series, so be sure to tune in for that.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

8 Celebrities Who Have Turned Their Careers Around in Recent Years (For Better or Worse)

With the Oscar nominees recently announced, one or who names popped out at me as people who, a few years ago, would never have struck me as great actors. On the flip-side of that coin, there are other actors who had promising careers not too long ago, but are now some of the most hated people in Hollywood. Naturally, I've compiled a list of these actors for your reading pleasure, although there were quite a few more of them than I expected. Note that this is only listing actors who had major career shifts

Honourable Mentions: Ben Affleck (mostly for directing, although his acting was praised in Argo too... I'll reserve judgement on this though until Batman/Superman), Adam Sandler (I consider 9 years removed from a decent movie too long ago to be "recent"), Mel Gibson (ditto), Joaquin Phoenix (went nuts for I'm Still Here, but thankfully ended that non-sense and is back to Oscar baiting), Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart (both were major up-and-comers, until Twilight annihilated their long-term careers... however, Pattinson is still in good graces and might just scrape out a career), Liam Neeson (from dramatic actor to action movie badass, although Taken 2 knocked the winds out of those sails).

8) Danny Trejo
Formerly: Ugly/badass extra in every damn movie (especially Robert Rodriguez movies)
Now: Machete, B-movie king

Danny Trejo is a workhorse. Look at his IMDb profile - he appears in dozens of films every year, usually as an extra. However, ever since Robert Rodriguez gave him his first leading man role in Machete, Trejo has suddenly become the go-to bad ass leading man in shlocky, straight-to-DVD B-movies... and honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. Danny Trejo seems to be having a blast with his new-found recognition. I remember reading an interview for Machete Kills where Trejo was all giddy because he had to film a (rather tame) sex scene with Amber Heard, and couldn't believe that he was actually getting paid for that job (which of course had Amber in stiches). And honestly, I'd probably be reacting the same way.

7) Sylvester Stallone
Formerly: Washed up action hero
Now: Modern-day action hero, redeemed actor

The Italian Stallion was one of the biggest names in Hollywood throughout the late 70s and 80s, creating such mammoth franchises as Rocky and Rambo. It should also be noted that he nearly won best actor and best screenwriter for Rocky. However, after a string of terrible Rocky sequels and weak action movies (buoyed only by Cliffhanger), 1995's Judge Dredd pretty much marked the end of Sly's career as a legitimate leading hero in the eyes of the public. The movie was an all-round embarrassment and marked the beginning of the low period in his career. So when Rocky Balboa was announced, obviously people were skeptical - Sly was too old, the Rocky sequels generally sucked, etc. Of course, Sly had the last laugh, because by all accounts, Rocky Balboa was extremely well received. After that came Rambo, which was easily the best film in that franchise since the original (and also one of the most brutal movies I've ever seen). Then came the Expendables films, which aren't exactly amazing, but have helped keep Sly popular. He hasn't been as successful in his smaller endeavours (eg, Bullet to the Head), but for the moment Stallone is definitely back in the spotlight.

6) Will Smith
Formerly: Will Smith, the most bankable star in Hollywood
Now: Will Smith, annoying Hollywood father

Will Smith has a ton of charisma and is a natural leading man. His IMDb profile reads like a list of major hits of the last two decades, with 2000-2008 probably being the height of his career as the man who could have any role he wanted to, regardless of race. Even somewhat shoddy or butchered material, such as I Am Legend, are elevated by Smith's presence. Anyway, Smith's career began to turn around with Seven Pounds, a film which was hyped to be the movie to earn him a Best Actor win at the Oscars. However, the movie fell flat (not due to Smith's efforts however), and Smith decided to neglect his own career in favour of his son Jayden's. The results haven't been too good - since shelving his own career, Jayden has put out such dreck as The Karate Kid remake and After Earth, the latter of which features Will Smith in a cameo (which was clearly done to try to piggy-back Jayden to stardom on his father's name). As a result, Will Smith's own popularity has been dropping sharply, and if he's not careful then he might lose audiences' goodwill entirely.

5) Bradley Cooper
Formerly: Douchebag from The Hangover, Hollywood pretty-boy
Now: Bradley Cooper, two-time Oscar nominee and David O. Russell darling

Bradley Cooper's career has been rather interesting. He slowly worked his way up to leading roles over the course of a decade until he gained real recognition in The Hangover as the pretty boy opposite Zach Galifianakis (the real break-out star from that film) and Ed Helms. However, this big break was nearly wasted on films such as All About Steve, Valentine's Day and The A-Team, all of which didn't display his talents very well. However, he was saved by the major hit that was Limitless, which displayed his leading-man potential. This drew David O. Russell, a favourite director of the Academy, to Cooper for the one-two punch of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, earning Cooper consecutive acting nominations. At this rate, it seems that Bradley Cooper is like Mark Wahlberg in that he's as good as the script in front of him, but there's no denying that he's a hot property in Hollywood these days.

4) Jonah Hill
Formerly: Fat, juvenile sex comedy star
Now: Legitimate actor (and another two-time Oscar nominee)

Jonah Hill is one of many major Hollywood names to get his big break from Judd Apatow (others including James Franco, Seth Rogen, Steve Carell, Lizzy Caplan and Paul Rudd). For years he was appearing in Apatow sex comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up before starring alongside Michael Cera in Superbad. Of course, this made everyone associate him with juvenile humour and/or sex comedies, meaning he was stuck with films like Accepted on his CV. However, out of nowhere, Jonah Hill decided to stretch his acting chops and got a Best Supporting Actor nod for Moneyball. Everyone was shocked - the Jonah Hill!?! Since then he has starred in the very successful 21 Jump Street remake, made fun of his public persona (and Oscar-nom status) in This Is the End and even bagged a second Supporting Actor nomination with The Wolf of Wall Street. It looks like Jonah Hill's star is only going to be ascending at this rate.

3) Ryan Gosling
Formerly: Pretty boy from The Notebook
Now: Legitimate, big-name actor and badass action hero with a sensitive side

Did anyone expect that the pretty faced guy from every romantic's favourite movie, The Notebook, would ever be seen mashing a man's head on screen with his foot? Ryan Gosling was a bit of a joke for years after The Notebook, hated by a lot of guys for his pretty looks. However, he was building up his acting chops in the meantime, with an acclaimed performance in Blue Valentine (a film which got further exposure due to the MPAA unjustly slapping it with an NC-17 rating). However, it wasn't until Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive that the public woke up and said "Wait... this guy is awesome!" The public hyped Drive up for Best Picture and Gosling for Best Actor (although neither came to fruition), and suddenly Gosling was getting choice roles, such as Oscar-hopeful The Ides of March and mindless actioner Gangster Squad. He lost some goodwill after Only God Forgives, but Nicholas Winding Refn has taken the brunt of that scorn. Gosling says he might be retiring from acting soon, but we will see how his career shapes up when or if that happens.

2) Shia LaBeouf
Formerly: Big-name child actor and major up-and-coming star for the new millenium
Now: Lindsay Lohan, with a dick

Shia LaBeouf got the break of a lifetime with the TV show Even Stevens, which looked like the springboard to a major Hollywood career. And to be fair, it worked - Shia started landing lead roles in such notable films as Holes and Disturbia. However, his major thrust into the spotlight came from Michael Bay's Transformers, which surprised everyone by just how entertaining it was. LaBeouf's performance wasn't exactly acclaimed, but he was fine for the role. However, then Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull happened and suddenly the public turned on Shia. Pretty much everyone hated Mutt Williams, including Shia himself. Then Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen happened, and suddenly Sam Witwicky was irritating as sin. With the exception of Lawless, everything LaBeouf has done since 2007 has been the recipient of public scorn, and even in his private life he has become an object of ridicule. Really, he has become a waste of the talent and potential that he displayed ten years ago.

1) Matthew McConaughey
Formerly: The guy in every terrible romantic comedy
Now: Major acting powerhouse and probably this year's Best Actor winner

I was too young to remember it, but apparently Matthew McConaughey was a pretty hot property during the 90s. However, I only really knew him as he appeared in the early-to-mid 2000s: the guy who shows up in every awful romantic comedy and slap-dash blockbuster. I don't know if he was sleepwalking throughout that period, but I saw Sahara, it was stupid, and McConaughey phoned in his performance. However, legend has it that after seeing one of his romantic comedies (Fool's Gold possibly? Maybe Ghosts of Girlfriends Past? Failure to Launch? Argh, there's too many possibilities), he woke up and realized that he was wasting his talents and career. As a result, he decided to shape up with films such as We Are Marshall and his hilarious turn in Tropic Thunder. However, he didn't move into a truly major performance until The Lincoln Lawyer. Since then he has been an annual Oscar contender for such films as Mud, Killer Joe and Dallas Buyer's Club, while still entertaining the ladies in Magic Mike. Honestly, his career seems to be only getting better, as he is the lead in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. I never thought it was possible, but I salute you McConaughey - you really turned your career around and saved your reputation.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Religious Musings: Part 2 - Quantum Theology

I was originally planning on integrating this post into my last blog entry about the Pope, but it quickly became very complicated, long and didn't flow very well with the rest of the article. Ultimately, I decided that it would be better to separate the two articles to give this bit of theorizing the attention I feel it deserves. Anyway, mulling over all of this theology also made me wonder about perhaps the most controversial passage in the satirical article. Is it in any way possible that "through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity"? Honestly, I would be overjoyed if it was true since I have friends who do not share the same faith as myself, but I believe this is wishful thinking at best (sadly). However, my mulling about this and the evolving state of religion led me to wonder what would happen if a certain theory of quantum mechanics is proven. I would like to make sure to emphasize that I do not actually believe the content of this post. It is nothing more to me than entertaining theoretical musings... but that doesn't mean there isn't any substance to it. Oh and just a warning - things are about to get complicated and mind-blowing.

Maybe grab a handful of Advil too.

If you've read Michael Crichton's Timeline, watched Source Code or played Bioshock: Infinite, then you're at least mildly familiar with the basics of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It's a real scientific theory which posits that infinite alternate dimensions branch out from every action (there's scientific ideas to back up the theory in the first place, but that's the simple shorthand of it). It's extremely complicated, but seriously - read Timeline. A lot of media seems to be incorporating the theory and that book has helped me understand them so much better.

Anyway, assuming that this theory is true, what I'm wondering is how this would interact with religious doctrine. In particular, if there are an infinite number of dimensions, what does that mean for human souls? Obviously there would be an infinite number of different versions of the same individual spread out across dimensions. Do all of these individuals spread across dimensions share a single soul, or does each have their own? Can we look forward to seeing an infinite number of ourselves when we die? I think I'll leave the nitpicking over that one to the philosophers, but it makes more sense to me that individuals across dimensions share a single soul.

Argh, I'm getting a headache already.*

However, another issue arises from this conundrum if it turns out that these infinite number of individuals all share the same soul. In such a case it would mean that collectively, across all of the dimensions, all individuals would inevitably attain salvation. The obvious consequence of this is that nearly everyone will go to heaven, whereas Christian doctrine assumes that you only have one lifetime to save yourself. This creates a bit of a theological issue - yes, it would mean that everyone is saved, but it's distinctly different than the universal reconciliation taught in liberal churches. For one thing, it's not a cop-out to avoid offending anyone. Individuals will be repenting of their sins... just maybe not in this dimension.

Still following me? In case you need a simpler, possibly clearer distillation of the idea, then it would be as follows:
Assumptions: Jehovah and the fundamental principles of the Christian religion are true, as is the many-worlds interpretation.
Premise 1: If the many-worlds interpretation is true, that means there are multiple versions of the same individual spread across dimensions.
Premise 2: Either these individuals have separate souls or shared souls.
Premise 3: If these individuals share a soul, then all souls will be given infinite opportunities to attain salvation.
Conclusions: In such a situation, all souls will attain salvation.
Of course, there'd have to be some exceptions to this line of thinking. I would assume the divine are exempt from the machinations of quantum mechanics (since Satan overcoming God would be pretty blasphemous). Jesus would have to be the perfect sacrifice across all dimensions (otherwise He has absolutely no purpose). Also, assuming the popular interpretations of Revelation are true, the Anti-Christ and False Prophet would have to be doomed to condemnation since Revelation states that the unholy trinity are cast into Hell together at the end of time. There might be other exceptions, but these are the ones that stand out to me.

Hopefully this has given you something to think about... even if you had to fry your brain in the process. Got any thoughts on this theory? Sound them out below.

*That's no joke either, writing this blog post seriously gave me a headache.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Religious Musings: Part 1 - TEH POPE IZ TEH ANTI-CHRIST!!!11!!eleventy!

I was extremely close to delaying my last blog post and replacing it with this one. If I hadn't been delayed by work then I definitely would have put this one out first because the first half of this post is almost old news now... oh well.

Anyway, on Christmas Eve a friend posted an article on Facebook about how Pope Francis said that income inequality was immoral, which caused Bill "heart blacker than Don Cheadle" O'Reilly to state that "I don’t know if Jesus is going to be down with that". Later, I was talking about how, despite not being Catholic, I liked Pope Francis' progressive views. However, I was immediately shot down by my brother's fiance who said that she had heard that the pope had said that all religions are true and there was no hell. I was pretty floored. I mean seriously, what the hell? Being progressive is one thing, but at a certain point you totally jump the rails and basically just say "religion is the lulz, eh?" Of course, pretty soon this whole thing became very suspicious to me - even if Pope Francis was an extremely liberal Christian, the Vatican isn't just controlled by him. Why would the other leaders in the church allow him to say something so obviously against fundamental Christian doctrine?

Ultimately, I decided to track down the source of these claims. Turns out that this is a viral story which has spread quite a bit, although mostly by blogs and news sites of ill-repute... not to mention featuring a smattering of duped Christians declaring that Francis is the anti-Christ of the week and liberal atheists stating that this would make religion actually make sense now (what, have they never heard of the United Church and how abandoning fundamental principles results in rapidly-declining membership?). Hell, I even saw a Muslim comment on how Islam is the best religion because it doesn't abandon its core teachings like this evil pope. Of course, the source article was pure satire, a fact lost on all of the people who spread it (and especially the idiots in news blogs who failed to do any sort of fact-checking).

However, I want to look at the original article and examine some of the claims which were made in it which are actually a good thing without being heretical. In case you need the link to the original article again, here you go.